How many times have you passed an interesting looking shop and kept telling yourself, “I really want to check that place out,” but then never do? Happens to me all the time. I finally stopped to explore such a little place that I’ve passed countless times but never entered, the Balkan Food Store and Bakery (6837 4th St. N, St. Petersburg; 727-526-1341). I’m glad I did. I spent a long time just browsing the shelves before narrowing down my choices to what I finally bought: a pastry and a jar of fig marmalade.
Here’s a quote from a St. Pete Times article on the Bosnian Food Store: “Asilan and Zahide Osmakac are among several shopkeepers who have opened in recent years to serve immigrants from Eastern Europe with products they miss from their homeland, including fresh breads. Their burek is made from a rope of dough filled with meats or cheese throughout. Small kifles are like curved hot dog rolls. A lovely, light round loaf is called lepine.”
It’s impossible, of course, to visit someplace with the word, Bosnian, in its title without reflecting on the troubles that part of the world have had for centuries. This Tampabay.com (St. Pete Times) article, Balkan community split on Karadzic, has important information to absorb about the implications, locally, of those conflicts. I still don’t understand the issues involved in the history of that region of the world. But…I do enjoy east Mediterranean food! I figure as long as I avoid foot-in-mouth comments, smile a lot, and keep to the reason I’m there (food), I don’t need to understand all there is to know about Bosnia and the Balkans. If you’d like to know more about the political issues of this part of the world, I highly recommend the CIA World Factbook…uh, yes, that CIA. Don’t be afraid to check out the Factbook; it’s a marvelous resource from a fascinating government agency. I also enjoy the Flags of the World link at their site.
The simplest items on the Bosnian Food Store and Bakery shelves speak of issues I need to research much more to even begin to understand. For instance, the fig marmalade I bought is a product of Macedonia. Until working on this post, my knowledge of Macedonia ended with reading about Alexander the Great when I was a kid. Little did I know there is a naming dispute about the use of the term, Macedonia, and the modern date state, the Republic of Macedonia! So, once again, until I read more, I’ll not ask questions, just enjoy the food.
Regardless of the issues, I’m now permanently hooked on fig marmalade. (I’d never had it before) Its taste, for me, eclipses all other marmalades (with the possible exceptions of kumquat marmalade). Here’s a Greek-Recipes.com recipe for fig marmalade that looks like a mere mortal could make it, if you can get 1 kilo of fresh figs.
The Bosnian Food Store proprietress and I were only able to communicate by single, isolated English words and sign language. That was plenty good enough. I have absolutely NO impatience with immigrants who have difficulty speaking English because–halting though their command of a new language may be–it far, far, far exceeds any ability I’ve ever achieved in a second language. I have nothing but respect for their making their way in an alien world. However, in this particular instance, I was left not quite knowing the name of the pastry I had. Was it lepine, mentioned in the St. Pete Times article above, or was it burek? Because what I bought had white cheese scattered throughout it, I’m tempted to say it may have been the burek. However, all the pictures I’ve seen of the burek (and the recipes) seem to suggest that it’s a heavier pastry than what I had, which was light and fluffy. Against that, though, is the fact that I could find no mention of lepine containing cheese! So…
Guess I’ll have to go back, buy another one, and ask! Lepine? Burek?
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